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TRANSCRIPT

DoD News Briefing


Sunday, 24 May 1998
Sunday, 24 May 1998

Press Briefing Enroute to Santiago, Chile Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Sunday, 24 May 1998

Secretary Cohen:

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Q: There is just one last thing - has any decision been made, are you ready to make any announcements on the USS INDEPENDENCE?

A: (Cohen): I believe the INDY is on its way out of the Gulf, heading, eventually, home. This would be consistent, I believe, with some readjustment of the size of our forces in the region, which we would like to get back to pre-crisis levels and hopefully we can do so in the next several weeks. That would be consistent with that.

Q: Does that mean that other aircraft, the F-117s will be brought back, the B-52 bombers that are at Diego Garcia?

A: (Cohen): I would hope that we will be in a position to reduce the level down to approximately what it was prior to the crisis. But also have on hand substantial prepositioning and also be in a position to augment that force within 48 hours. So, I think that we will see some reduction, and that will include the 117s and others in the foreseeable future.

Q: The INDY will be replaced by the USS EISENHOWER though, in late July or will it? Are you going to go to one carrier?

A: (Cohen): That is a decision that the President will have to make. I would hope that we will go to that one carrier presence so that we can get down to approximately where we were prior to November. That is still very significant and that would be between 17,000 and 20,000 personnel. And again, we would hope to have a rapidly deployable force that could go back within a 48 hour period and be really, where we are today. So, we are trying to get back to normalizing the force structure in a way that allows us to maintain a significant presence and then augment it very quickly if there should be a crisis erupt in the future.

Q: I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that the decision is still to be made whether or not the IKE will in fact go or do you expect that it will not replace the INDY?

A: (Cohen): My expectations will be that we will have a one carrier presence.

Q: Are you at all concerned that Saddam Hussein may, once you are out of there, try to take advantage of the situation?

A: (Cohen): No, because we have worked very closely with all of our allies on this and all are in agreement that should there be any kind of a crisis we can quickly put our multi-national forces in very, very quickly to respond to any crisis. We would anticipate having the capability of going back in to where we are today, roughly the same numbers, within 48 hours. We will have a sufficient presence on hand that is more than an adequate deterrent and would have great capabilities. Basically, try to get back to having a more routine deployment of our forces.

Q: The last question. Can we assume that the IKE will then go into the Med? So that it would be in place to come into the...

A: (Cohen): I think that we ought to wait on that decision for the time being.

Q: But your expectations are that we are going to have the one?

A: (Cohen): That is my expectation.